No Surprises: Worst Passwords of 2014

January 21, 2015 at 11:25 pm (1Password, Applications, Productivity, security) (, , , )

Yesterday, SplashData announced its annual list of the 25 worst passwords (read: most common) on the internet. The list is compiled from over 3.3 million leaked passwords. Having worked at an Apple store for five years, the greatest offenders were no surprise to me. During those first few months at Apple, I was constantly amazed at the number of customers who used many of these top passwords.  Not surprisingly, many of these folks were hacked. The most common offenders were (are you ready for it?) “123456”,  “password”, and “qwerty”. Other commonly used passwords that are easily guessed by hackers, or by someone you know who might like to get into your account for nefarious purposes, include names (yours, your significant other, your favorite pet), favorite sports (baseball, football, golfer), favorite sports team (yankees, steelers, rangers), and favorite superhero (superman, batman). Hackers commonly use a “dictionary crack” which takes only a short time to run. If you use a word or words from the dictionary with no letters or symbols to break it up, your password can be easily guessed by the program.

Because of so much publicity surrounding data breaches this past year (Target, Home Depot, and many others), people are finally starting to pay attention and use slightly stronger passwords.  However, simply substituting numbers for some letters (3 for E, 4 for A, etc.) is really not enough anymore.  While “P4ssw0rd” is better than “password”, it is still easily guessed. It would be better to use something like “P4$$w)rd”, which is still “password”, but with substitution of numbers and symbols. Another big risk that people take is using the same password for all their sites.  If your login information was accessed during a data breach, all the hacker needs to do at that point is start using that login information for the common banks. If you reuse passwords (use the same password for your Target account that you use for your Bank of America account) then the hackers have just gotten both your Target account information and your banking information. Now do you see why reusing passwords is a bad idea? 

DilbertPasswordInstructions

Here are a few tips to make your passwords stronger: 
1.  Use a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols.  Most sites have a minimum length, but it can vary from 4 to 8 characters up to 14 to 18 characters or more.
2.  Do not reuse passwords. In other words, don’t use the same login information for multiple sites. 
3.  Use two-factor authentication when possible.  Many sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google, Battle.net, and others, are using this method, which is like having a security door in addition to your main door. Each time you log into the account, you are sent a code to your phone to enter after entering your initial credentials. It changes each time you login, so a hacker would have to have access to your device at the time of the login attempt in order to get the code.  
4.  Wait for it.  You know it’s coming.  Use a password manager such as 1Password for the best possible security.  Not only does 1Password store all your login information for every site you visit, but it will also generate strong passwords for you (and you can set criteria, such as length, number of characters and symbols,  etc.), and you only have to remember your master password.  The app remembers all your other passwords for you. In addition to login information and passwords, it also stores secure notes, attachments, software information (serial numbers and software keys), network information, banking info, and more.  It works across platforms, and is always in sync.  Best of all, the next time there is news of a data breach somewhere, and everyone is scrambling to change their passwords, you can sit there with a smug grin on your face knowing that you don’t have to worry about it. Do you have any tips or tricks to add?  Do you want to tell us the ‘best worst password’ you’ve used (or heard of)? Let us know in the comments. 

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1Password App Extension Coming in iOS 8

August 6, 2014 at 9:48 am (1Password, Apple, Applications, Current Events, iDevices, iPhone/iPod Touch, Productivity) (, , , )

One of the really cool things announced at Apple’s WWCD this year was the addition of app extensions for iOS 8 (iOS is the operating system that runs our iDevices).  When you log in to an app on an iDevice, you have to do the copy and paste dance of going to 1Password (or your notes or wherever you have your login info), go back and forth between the screens a couple of times, until you submit the info and successfully log in to the app…unless you use the same password for everything, but you don’t do that, right?  Because that’s just wrong, and setting yourself up for a world of hurt.  So, the announcement about app extensions was fantastic!  Because now, you won’t have to do that do-si-do anymore.  There is a short video at 1Password’s blog where you can get a look at the coolness of it.  More info will be coming soon, but I can’t wait for this feature.  Be sure to let your favorite app developers know that you want them to use the 1Password extension with their apps. 

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Where do you keep your Passwords? No More Sticky Notes!

June 8, 2014 at 11:31 am (1Password, Apple, Applications, Current Events, iDevices, iPhone/iPod Touch, Productivity, Products, shareware) (, , , , )

I realize I’ve been hyping the fantastic 1Password app quite a bit lately.  There’s a good reason for that.  It’s the best.  If you care anything about your data, you owe it to yourself to protect it.  That means using 1Password. 

 

Friends frequently ask me what 1Password is, what it does, why they need it, and many other questions.  I’d gotten my “elevator spiel” down to about a minute or so, but I was afraid of being inconsistent, or leaving out something important, (especially with all the new features added recently), or just freezing up (it happens sometimes). But, now there is something even better. 


Now there is a real video, complete with snazzy soundtrack, that can be clicked and watched again and again. Keep watching until you realize that you cannot go another minute without the muscle that 1Password provides.   

 

Enjoy this brief video, then head on over to 1Password and pick up a copy today.  


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Start Your New Year with Day One

January 1, 2014 at 6:43 pm (Applications, iDevices, iPhone/iPod Touch, Personal, Productivity, shareware, writing) (, , , , , )

Happy New Year!  Another year beginning, another year ending, resolutions to make, resolutions to break.  I’m not being pessimistic, just realistic.  In the past couple of weeks with the old winding down and getting ready to give way to the new, I’ve had several friends ask me if I still journal, and if so, what app I use.  

I have always jotted down thoughts here and there, since I was a kid and got my “First Diary”.  You remember those, right?  They were little books with a cardboard flap and a couple of flimsy keys that anyone with a pair of scissors or a paperclip could get into; but we were young, so we thought it was locked up tight.  But, how things have changed.  Well, sort of.  They still make those for the kiddies, but our adult selections are so much better.  Most of the ones you actually write in no longer have locks, and are made of leather, pleather, vinyl, card stock, etc. and can be found ruled, as a grid, or blank.   

Day One Icon

But, for those who have transitioned to the digital world, (wait for it…), there’s an app for that. (You had to know it was coming). Actually, there are a lot of apps for that now, and quite a few good choices. But the one that has won my heart is the award-winning Day One.  It is a truly wonderful app for Mac, and there is a universal companion app, which is an excellent standalone app in its own right, for the iPhone and iPad. 

It is incredibly easy to get started, and you won’t even have to read any how-to guides to get up and running.  Their tag line is “Record life as you live it”, and the app’s design makes it easy to do just that. The interface is simple, clean, and minimalistic. Data that is automatically entered includes date and time, location, weather, photo EXIF, activity (walking, biking, running), and music playing. There is tagging and Markdown support, as well as customized reminders that you can set to be sent daily or weekly at certain times. The app really shines with its organizational abilities, as you can view past entries using the calendar, maps, photos, timeline, and more. Day One’s Mac version has a nifty little Menu Bar quick entry feature where you can (just like it sounds) make an entry right from the Menu Bar without opening the application. That’s great for a quick notation, or even a longer one when you’re not attaching a photo. Automatic backups keep your data safe as well.

Your entries can be synced from your Mac to and across your iDevices using iCloud or Dropbox.  I will say that I tried to use iCloud, and I really wanted to use it to save my rapidly filling Dropbox space.  But, I kept having issues with it, and in the end, it was just easier to disable iCloud syncing and go with Dropbox.  I haven’t had the first issue since the switch.  

Entries can be shared by emailing to friends and family or posting to social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Day One also creates individual webpages at dayone.me for any entires you want to publish. I’ve seen examples of it used for almost anything you can imagine, for typical writing and journaling, for research, for reviewing books, movies, and other media, as a work journal and timekeeper, as a travel and mileage log, as a prayer book and inspirational guide, and much more. 

I must say that it is a joy to use Day One.  I use it for jotting quick notes about events or captioning a photo, as well as making more personal longer entries or capturing special events. I’ve also been using it to log geocaching adventures, as well as ideas for my own devious geocaches to hide.  Give it a try and let me know what you think.  

You can get more information about Day One at its website here.  The Desktop version for Mac is available thru the Mac App Store for $9.99 and the Universal version for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch is $4.99. Now go jot down all your resolutions, then use Day One to write about them. Once you start using it, you’ll be likely to continue.  Enjoy!

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Cool Stuff that Siri can do for You

June 12, 2013 at 12:48 pm (Apple, How-to, iDevices, iPhone/iPod Touch, Productivity) (, , , , )

You may already be a seasoned professional when it comes to using Siri, but there are always more goodies you can add to your bag of tricks. When Siri first became available on the iPhone, one of the first things I asked was “What can you do for me?” and Siri tossed up a handful of suggestions. Back then, they were fairly simple things like calling people, sending texts, and setting reminders. Siri has evolved in the nearly two years that we have been using her assistance. There are a lot more things you can outsource Siri to do for you now. 

Here are just a few:

Say/Ask This:                                          To Do This:

Call (Mike / my brother)               Call a person (by name or relationship)

Launch ‘Facebook’                        Launch (app of choice)

Tell Malissa I’m on my way           Sends text to (person) with your message

Set up a meeting at 9am              Adds a meeting onto your schedule

Did the Broncos win today?         Checks and reports team scores 

Give me directions to Selmer       Gives directions to any named place

Tweet a message                          Tweets a message to post to Twitte

What movies are playing?            Tells what movies are playing nearby

Play brandi carlile                          Plays (singer) or (playlist) that you request

Remind me to pay bills                 Sets a reminder based on your request

Email Nik about the trip                 Sends email to (person) about (subject)

What’s today’s weather?                Tells you the weather forecast 

What’s apple’s stock price             Tells you company’s stock price

Wake me tomorrow at 9am           Sets an alarm for 9am 

What’s Nancy’s address?               Gets (person’s) address

Note that i need to buy milk          Adds a note to buy milk

Search the web for xxx                  Searches web for (chosen topic)

Define (word)                                  Looks up and gives definition of (word)

Find a good Sushi place                Lists nearby Sushi (or other) restaurants

In addition to the above commands, you can also have Siri help with punctuation and a few emoticons (oh, come on. You knew it was only a matter of time). 😉  Speaking punctuation such as “new paragraph”,  “new line”, “cap”, “period”, “full stop”,  or “(other desired punctuation mark)”,  will get the desired results most of the time.  Some emoticons  work, such as “smiley” or “smiley face”, “frowny” or “frowny face”,  and “wink face”. 

There is occasionally a glitch if Siri doesn’t understand you.  Get some practice by speaking normally, being sure to enunciate your words properly.  The more you use it, the more accurate your results will be.

Most of those listed above are, believe it or not, fairly basic uses of Siri.  She has evolved quite a bit in the past couple of years.  Some of the even more impressive tasks Siri can help you manage now include the following:  search other web browsers (Bing, Yahoo, Wikipedia) for information; update your social network status on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ via SMS (must set up ahead of time);  see and set calendar appointments for a certain day;  tell you what actors were in a particular movie; set or delete alarms; list flight times;  restart springboard/finder;  and more.  Calculations and other “fact-type” questions are searched using Wolfram Alpha. It is also integrated with Remember the Milk and other applications, to make those apps even easier to use. 

Many folks are aware that Siri also has some nifty little Easter Eggs, as well as a rather wicked (programmed) sense of humor.  There are at least a few blogs dedicated to these chuckle-inducing experiences, along with some dedicated to funny “oops” moments when a word is misspelled or misunderstood, yielding some unpredictable and often hilarious results. 

I tried a few questions early on, several of them the same that many others have also tossed at our able silicon-based assistant. Just a few samples:

Siri StarWars 2

Q:  “What can you tell me about ‘Star Wars (1977)’?”  
A:   “It’s about a couple of really nice robots who get mixed up in a silly intergalactic war”.  

Q:  “Define supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”  
A:   “The sound of that is something quite atrocious”.

Q:  “Who is on first?”
A:   “Correct. Who is on first.”  

 Q:  “What is the meaning of life?” 
 A:  “All evidence to date points to chocolate” (“42” is another hilarious answer).

These are just the tip of the iceberg regarding things that Siri can help you do these days.  I suspect that with iOS 7, that list will increase exponentially. I love having Siri help me make quick work of my tasks.  That gives me that much more time to spend on things that are really important.  Those are just a few that I’ve asked, and I’ve heard of or read many dozens more.  I’m glad the programmers made it a bit humorous. It makes me think they thought even more of their end user. 

What are your favorite things about Siri?  Have you had any humorous interactions with her? What would you like to see in iOS 7?  Let me know in the comments.   

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First Aid: Cache Style

May 10, 2013 at 10:03 pm (Geocaching, Productivity) (, , )

Ok folks, it’s springtime!  You know what that means.  Spring cleaning…oh joy…and cache first aid.   For the geocache. First Aid for the human geocachers will be another post. 😉  Yes, it’s time to check on your caches to make sure they fared well through the winter, and to make sure they are ready to be found by a new group of eager geocachers. I’ve already provided a little first aid for some caches I’ve come upon in the past few weeks. They were exhibiting typical signs of post-hibernation wear: spider webs, water damage, mold, ants, torn baggies, full logs, and occasionally a few other unpleasant discoveries.  To combat those little hindrances, I keep a Cache First Aid Kit in my GeoBag. It’s handy for performing those little random acts of geokindness that give one the warm fuzzies, and because it’s just nice to do nice things for others. Karma, and all that. 

Cache 1st Aid

Start with a small bag or container.  Then just add the things you’re most likely to need for performing a little cache first aid or some minor repairs. Some large and small ziplock bags are essential. IBB’s (Itty Bitty Baggies) can be found at craft stores, such as Michael’s or Hobby Lobby, and are great for keeping small logs protected from the elements. Carry several sizes of replacement logs in your bag. These can be found online and printed from several sites. Geocacher University’s site has a page devoted to Downloads and Printables,  where one can print logs for a variety of containers, as well as FTF certificates, stash notes, geocaching brochures, and more. Another good resource is MadCacher. They include links to most sizes as well as options for logs in color or black and white. 

A multi-tool is essential for caching in general, but it also helps for things like prying open rusted containers, getting stuck things unstuck, cutting things to fit, sizing tape, etc. I keep small pencils (grab a couple extra when you play mini-golf) and a knife can be a great pencil sharpener in a pinch. It’s not a great idea to keep ink pens in caches because they don’t fare well with the elements. They dry up or worse, leak or explode on the logs. Mix that with some moisture, and it’s a recipe for disaster, not to mention unreadable and forever ruined log sheets.  So, small pencils work best. It’s quick and easy to sharpen them and return them to their cache. 

Super glue is almost a must these days. It works great for reapplying velcro tape to cache containers and works really fast. I keep a couple strips of velcro for replacements purposes as well, along with a couple of magnets, rubber bands, craft wire (for rehanging containers on branches if their wire has been twisted one time too many), and a black sharpie marker. I also try to keep a couple of small O-rings, in case I come across a cache that has lost it’s “waterproofness” because of a lost or worn out O-ring. A quick replacement fixes it, and keeps the log dry again. 

Duct tape goes without saying. It is the one thing I would have if I didn’t have anything else. Now that it comes in so many colors and patterns, we don’t have to stick with basic grey. I generally have some black 1″ tape along with the standard 3″ camoflauge pattern. Both are great for quick and easy repairs, to cover containers, seal leaks, and can even be twisted to “hang” an item if needed. What would we do without duct tape?  😉   

Once I’ve provided a little love to the cache, I write a note on the cache’s listing page and submit it so the CO (cache owner) will see what was done. Sometimes, there have already been a couple of “needs maintenance” notes submitted, and doing a few little things like replacing a log or an O-ring will save the CO a trip.  That’s really all there is to it. Did I leave anything out that you do for spring cleaning? What other equipment do you keep in your Cache Maintenance kit? Keep on caching!

 

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What’s in Your Geopack? A Look Inside the Geocaching Bag

November 18, 2012 at 11:04 am (Geocaching, Productivity) (, , , , )

What's in my Geocaching Kit?

Last month, I asked about the Top 5 geocaching tools in your bag.  This time around, let’s just dump that bag on the ground and see what’s there. I decided it was time for a reorganization, as I couldn’t find anything anymore. You know how it is.  You grab something in a hurry, then toss it back on top. Before long, nothing is in its place anymore and nothing can be found.  So, much like doing a nuke and pave of the computer, to start with a clean slate, I’ve done that with my Geopack, to start with an empty bag and gradually restocked it. Let’s see how it goes.

I took a photo of the empty bag, contents all nicely laid out and photographed.  Then I tagged it on my Flickr Photostream, partly so I could see what all I had, and partly to share with you, my geocaching friends. Here is a similar photo, although you will have to see the one on Flickr to get the annotated version (click the photo above to be transported to the Flickr pic).

The primary contents of my bag, and those most often used, includes the following: extendable mirror/magnet, flashlight, hemostats, tick key, whistle, duct tape, Field Notes, baggies and logs, insect spray, and hand sanitizer.  Not listed, but always with me, is my Smith & Wesson .38 Special.  I always have it, especially in the woods (we’re in snake country, remember?).  Thankfully, I don’t have to use it often, but when I do, I’m really glad to have it. I generally use the Geocaching App on my iPhone 4S, but I’m trying to learn to use the GPS.  The iPhone App is just so easy, plus I can log my finds as I find them, rather than having to jot them down and log them when I get home.

My primary bag is an XPS Camelback. It’s a small backpack, which is what I wanted.  I have some larger ones, but I wanted as light as possible. I tried to use a Dajo Adventure Gear waist pack, but I just couldn’t do it.  I tried several times, and the messenger bag style strap did help, but having all that stuff hanging around my waist and hips just drove me crazy.  I did like the way the Dajo pack was set up, but in the end, it just didn’t work for me. With the XPS, which I got on clearance for about $12 (great deal!), I keep the things we rarely use in the back, the things more often used in the front section, and the things we use all the time actually go in a little space between the front and back sections.  It works great because there’s nothing to open and close. We just grab it and go, then put it back when we’re finished. It’s not perfect, but it will do for now.  One day, I’d like to design a modular pack that would satisfy the needs of most of us.  Until then, I’ll be on the lookout for the perfect multi-tool and the perfect Geopack.

I was amazed when I checked out some of the bags of geocaching friends.  Some of them have everything but the kitchen sink in their bags. A grappling hook?  Really?  I suppose there might come a time when I might need a grappling hook, but if that happens, you can bet I took a wrong turn somewhere 😉 Another item that frequently appeared was a folding ladder. These have become very popular, and I might seriously have to check into one of these.  However, considering my luck (or lack thereof) with ladders, that might not be a good thing for me to have.

I did pick up a few useful tips.  I’ll be adding a few things to my bag very soon. One item that kept coming up repeatedly that I hadn’t thought about stocking in my bag was glowsticks. I’ve used some for swag on occasion, but several folks noted that they could be handy in an emergency, especially if the batteries went out on your flashlight and you were lost (or delayed 😛 ) in the woods. I just picked up a roll of neon colored survey tape over the weekend for marking areas, especially when on a not-well-marked trail, as it can be confusing to tell where you’ve already been.  Tie the survey tape along the way like breadcrumbs, and it makes it much easier to get back out…just grab the tape on your way out to leave the area as you found it.

Binoculars were another often mentioned item that I hadn’t thought about previously. It would make it easier to search some areas, especially those with dense ground cover when searching for the elusive ammo can, or for looking skyward for a very small nano. I have an inexpensive pair that will be perfect for tossing in the truck for occasional use.

What about you?  What do you have in your Geopack?  List any must-have items in the comments, or post a link to you bag contents on Flickr to share with the rest of us.  Until next time, be safe and cache on!

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Try Clarify for quick “how to” instructions

August 22, 2011 at 4:06 pm (Apple, Applications, How-to, Productivity, shareware) (, , , )

There’s a new kid in town to make life easier when you get emails, texts, and phone calls from friends and family asking, “Hey, can you tell me how to do (task of the day) real quick?”.  It’s an application called Clarify from Blue Mango Software. You might be familiar with them for their terrific ScreenSteps application that’s been around for a few years and is invaluable for those who write technical instructions, software manuals, and the like.

Clarify is like a lighter version of ScreenSteps. In fact, the process is very similar, so anyone who has used ScreenSteps will be able to use it right out of the gate, and those who aren’t accustomed to it will be able to use it in mere minutes. It’s that easy and intuitive.

Blue Mango says they streamlined the application to be more of a screen capture tool and is primarily for “reducing round trip emails”. Rather than having to send multiple emails back and forth to re-explain, or clarify, your instructions, you can easily do it in just one email using this software.

I did a quick “How to create a how-to using Clarify” in about 2 minutes.

The following is what the user interface looks like within the software while you’re creating your document.

CreateHowToThis next screenshot is what the finished product looks like on the Clarify-it.com sharing site, where you will send folks to view the how-to information. It looks very nice and polished. It can also be exported as a pdf file.

FinishedProductThere is a free public beta available now so you can try it out. The price will be $29.99 when the application is released. It’s available here: http://www.bluemangolearning.com/clarify/ .  Give it a go then leave a comment and let me know what you think about it.  What other methods do you use for this type of communication? Email? Skitch? Something else? Let’s hear your ideas below.

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It’s Easy to Jott to a Blog…

June 29, 2008 at 3:53 am (Applications, How-to, Productivity) (, , , , , , )

It’s easy to use Jott to post to your WordPress or other popular blog. You just have to keep your post to under 30 seconds each. So if you think it will run longer, just string several of them together. Remember to speak slow and clearly. I’m using Jott now to post this message to my blog. The accuracy is really amazing. However, if something comes out really wrong, you can always go into your Jott webpage and correct it manually. I just Jotted this post!

Powered by Jott

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